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(Crossposted from The Field.)

You know what makes me all "hopey" in that poster?

Reading the Latin American portion of a 78-page text of written questions posed by Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry and Secretary of State nominee Hillary Clinton's written answers to them.

I've just filed a new story on Narco News projecting major changes for US-Latin America policy based on what we've seen and heard from the Clinton nomination hearings yesterday and in the aftermath of Obama's Monday meeting with the Mexican named Felipe Calderon that is the titular president of that country...

Prior to Tuesday's US Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on the confirmation of Senator Hillary Clinton for Secretary of State, committee chairman John Kerry submitted a 78-page list of questions to the nominee. Five pages of the document were dedicated to questions and answers on US-Latin America policy and can be found on pages 69-75 of this .pdf document transcript published by Foreign Policy magazine.

The questionnaire reveals that Clinton now advocates the Obama platform for easing the US embargo of Cuba and for "direct diplomacy with Bolivia and Venezuela," - positions that she opposed in her own presidential campaign - as well as reiterating shared public positions on rewriting the proposed US-Colombia Free Trade Agreement...

As one of the pens that most vociferously wrote in warning against the appointment of Senator Clinton as Secretary of State, I find her answers to some of Kerry's questions to allay, now, some of my expressed concerns. For example, during their presidential rivalry, when Obama called for easing the US economic embargo of Cuba to allow Cuban-Americans to visit the country and send money to relatives there, the Clinton campaign's response was a terse statement that candidate Clinton planned no changes to US-Cuba policy. But here she is now, in her capacity as Secretary of State designate, with a new and better stance...

Essentially, these are Obama's precise campaign promises being put into action by a secretary-designee that opposed some of them. And one thing about Obama's campaign pledges is that, to a tee, he framed them in the realm of possible, attainable goals that can, if pushed, win backing in Congress...

And it was also very encouraging to see Kerry begin to stake out his turf newly as chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee:

And one of Kerry's written questions to Clinton suggests he's soured considerably on Plan Colombia - the multi-billion dollar US military intervention in that country - which after nine years has not shown results at what was stated as its main goal: impeding the production and trafficking of cocaine. Kerry's question also revealed his evident concern about repeating the mistakes of Plan Colombia now with Plan Mexico, also known as the Merida Initiative:

An October 2008 report by the GAO concluded that, although Plan Colombia improved security conditions in Colombia, it has not significantly reduced the amount of illicit drugs entering the United States. What lessons can be drawn from Plan Colombia, not only to improve its effectiveness, but to improve other U.S. counternarcotics policies, including the Merida Initiative, in Latin America?

That question was a friendly but tough shot across the bow from Kerry, who in the 1990s led the Senate investigation exposing US government involvement in cocaine trafficking through the Iran-Contra case. It put Obama and Clinton on notice that he, their political ally, and now the most powerful voice on foreign policy in Congress, is not going to sit back quietly if Plan Colombia marches on as before, or if Plan Mexico repeats its grievous errors...

Those are just excerpts, so do read the whole thing for a fuller explanation, including my take on why Obama brought Rahm Emanuel - the enforcer - to the meeting with Mexico's Calderon - who's grown used to coddling treatment from George W. Bush - and served him up a long overdue "attitude adjustment" regarding the amending of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

Calderon, a staunch opponent of renegotiating NAFTA, is now pretending to have been for reforming it all along.

Boy, would I like to have been a fly on the wall for that meeting!

Originally posted to The Field on Wed Jan 14, 2009 at 06:20 PM PST.

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